Characterize aquatic biota and habitat for cold and cool water stream systems to enhance resource management and protection across thermal gradients
July 2023 - June 2026
- MIssouri Department of Conservation
Characterizing fish assemblages and other aquatic biota into thermal classes (i.e., cold, cool, and warm water) would support management-relevant water temperature criteria that could be linked to water quality habitat designations within state regulatory programs. Our ability to accurately define stream habitats based on their thermal regime (i.e., cold, cool, and warm) and identify unique aquatic communities with species assemblages that are distinct from one another is limited by the availability of data across the diversity of Missouri stream habitat types. The purpose of this project is to estimate the distribution and extent of significant cold water stream habitats, including describing associated aquatic species communities within those habitats and in transition zones, for use in making recommendations to assist development of thermal criteria for Missouri streams. Data from this project will improve our understanding on the extent of cold and cool water species, longitudinal changes in thermal habitats, and the abiotic conditions that help define the boundaries. This information could contribute to conservation strategies for species of conservation concern, especially those species with a limited distribution and associated with spring-fed streams. Initial discussions with MDC have indicated the results of this study could be used to identify thermal refugia, extent of cold-water trout habitat to adjust stocking densities, and adapt management strategies in the face of climate change.